How to Deal With Negativity Living Abroad

Moving abroad isn’t easy. It takes a lot of getting used to, a lot of overcoming fears and uncertainty, and a lot of courage and strength. But without fear, there is no courage and without courage, we can’t break our limits.

When I moved, I had no idea how complicated it really was to permanently live in Japan. I remember finally making it to my new apartment and the excitement was replaced with fear and uncertainty. I remember refusing to sleep in my new bed for four months and settled by sleeping on the couch because it was a big American style couch that made me feel nostalgic for "home."

It has been a journey and a lot of trial and error so here is what I learned to do when the negativity surrounding life abroad creeps up on you.


I lived in Hirosaki, Aomori my first permanent year in Japan. It was beautiful but isolating, similar but different - my reactions to problems became impulsive and panicked and I surrounded myself with people who complained about Japan and the issues they seemed to cultivate each and every day of their lives living in this country. Soon enough, I became that person too. I became the type of person that saw Japan through the eyes of others instead of my own. That became one thing I acknowledged and changed about myself later on in life.

You have to remember that you are your own person. Nothing anybody says negatively should be an energy that you allow during your one opportunity to lead a new and exciting life.

In order to protect myself from other’s energies, I tend to envision a barrier around me. Every time someone says or does something negative, I envision it bouncing off of that barrier back to where it came from. If I end up catching wind of that energy, I visualize that energy pouring out from my toes or my forehead and back to where it came from.

I also do something called shower therapy where I envision all the negative energy of the day wash off of me.


Many of us fantasize about moving abroad and expect an adventure and an escape. Unfortunately, I felt that same way. Living abroad was not the same as studying abroad short term. It was different knowing you weren't returning home any time soon. It was also different knowing that this is your life now and you need to "adult" and take more responsibility for yourself.

I hate to break it to you, but you WILL be disappointed if you have high expectations of what it means to live abroad.

You have to be realistic and open to catastrophe, embrace the difficult times and observe the negative thoughts you’re having in this present moment plus the emotions that come along with that. Act on it purposefully and think, “well, what can I learn from this experience I’m having right now? What is in my control that I can do right now for myself?” Instead of “woe is me, everything sucks! I hate Japan! This is not what I expected AT ALL!”


Act despite your emotions, acknowledge your feelings, be kind toward yourself, and grow.

We have this idea of happiness in our heads and what it is. In the Japanese concept of Ikigai, finding life purpose, the secret to longevity is to not cave in along the journey of life. The Japanese believe that to live the longest, we need to have a high degree of awareness.

Shoma Morita, a famous Japanese psychiatrist, states that people need to obtain something called arugamama - acceptance of life as it is.

While living abroad, I was always in the state of, “Well, when I get a new job, I'll be happy." or "When I learn the train system and stop getting lost all the time, I’ll be happy." and also, "When I can speak Japanese better, I’ll be able to live happily here.”

Humans live in a state of endless dissatisfaction with the here and now. We end up missing opportunities to experience happiness at that moment when we continuously think that if we fix what is wrong currently, we will be satisfied.


Moving abroad equals immense change and that can be draining in itself. Listen to your body. If you’re mentally drained or exhausted, do something mindless that’s creative or calming. Achieve a balanced lifestyle by becoming more aware of how you're feeling and answer that call within yourself.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to adapt quickly and make yourself feel bad about not doing something correctly or understanding a situation. Be sensitive toward your growth here.

Expanding on that, nourishing your body is so important while living abroad. Start by cooking small meals before becoming overwhelmed with recipes and ingredients. It takes time to adjust to a new way of eating or shopping.


I cannot stress this enough; have a darn routine! We are creatures of habits and routines. It keeps us accountable and aware that we take 100% responsibility for ourselves. Also having a routine gives us a sense of home. And what we want to feel when we move abroad is to feel at home in a new environment.

By routine, I mean a loose one. Do not expect to complete your routine perfectly. There will be days when you don’t follow it and that is ok. But it’s good to have something to go back to when you feel your life is out of control. It’s also all about trial and error and what works for you. There are multiple ways to piece together your personal routine.


The most important thing when you move abroad is to know when you need help. Be open about your feelings with others and don’t be afraid to find some transition therapy to help you make that change and that move.

There are tons of resources online and tons of communities wherever you move to in Japan that you can join in on. Everyone I’ve met at meetups or events has been nothing but supportive and kind, so take some action despite how your feeling to get the help you need. If you don’t want to get help because you think it will be a lot of work, do it anyway.

If you’re scared to do something you want to do. Do it anyway.

For more on combating negativity and living a stress-free life abroad, check out my YouTube video below!

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2020 Kelly Morita